Kevin Drum touches on something I’ve been thinking about lately.
Berger’s quote is from an article by Farah Stockman in the Boston Globe today that highlights a key Kerry problem: as Kerry moves rightward after the primaries, and as Bush becomes more receptive to ideas that Kerry has long championed � giving the United Nations a far greater role in Iraq, emphasizing the importance of welcoming NATO to Iraq, and beefing up the number of US troops in Iraq � Kerry loses any chance of distinguishing himself from Bush over foreign policy.
This strikes me as a serious problem. National security is almost certain to be the defining issue of the campaign, and there’s just no way for Kerry to get any traction there if his positions aren’t clearly distinguishable from Bush’s. And despite the pro-war partisans’ continuing fantasy that George Bush is dedicated to the same kind of vast war of civilizations they are, the fact is that Bush has adopted an awful lot of Democratic positions in the past year. Aside from rhetorical tone, it’s getting harder and harder for Kerry to find points of disagreement that are more than just nitpicking.
This is something I’ve been seeing more of and something I’ve been wondering about. The TV news that I’ve seen frames it was “Kerry doesn’t have a postion on post-war Iraq, he just criticizes Iraq.” I don’t think that’s true; the problem is that it’s just not that different from Bush’s. I tend to think Kerry is more likely to get the UN involved than Bush, even with his rhetoric lately. And also, we saw the other day that Kerry thinks a stable government is more important that democracy first, while Bush says democracy is the only option (though I think Bush would say there’s no difference). I actually don’t think Bush cares about democracy and his position is more like Kerry’s. As long as the government is friendly, he’ll be happy.
So, how does Kerry distinguish himself? Pointing out the mistakes Bush’s made won’t really help. Who’s going to take him seriously if his position is “The same vision without the mistakes”? I think attacking the war as a mistake in the war on terrorism would do ok, as long as you outline a postion on the current situation, different from Bush or not. In the end, it’s going to depend more on what happens as the year goes on, if Bush does actual adopt the positions that separate him from Kerry.
How about what I think should be done? I don’t know. If you’ve noticed anything about my blog, it’s pretty devoid of post war Iraq policy criticism. I don’t find the withdrawal argument the least bit convincing. I think the UN is a good step, but they can’t do it without a significant amount of money and troops from us. Them in charge would help, though. Basically, anyone that isn’t us in charge would be good.